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Silicon Valley Employment Law Blog

Not all wrongful termination cases make it to court

Anyone who has been fired from a job has every right to question the legality of his or her situation. The wrongful termination of employees happens far too often, and it is certainly something that should not be allowed to stand. Some believe that they have been let go from their employers unfairly, but they do not want to take the issue to court if they do not have to. The good news is wrongful termination cases in California and elsewhere do not always end up going to trial. 

Recently, a story was published about a man's wrongful termination case that ended up being settled out of court. The plaintiff in this particular case claims that his former employer -- Cloud, LLC -- let him go and then refused to pay him the monthly disbursement owed him. This individual was initially seeking over $75,000 in damages and legal fees. 

AB5 will change employment classifications for some workers

How can a person work for a company but not be considered an employee? It happens all of the time, and it limits the non-employee's pay and benefits. It can even affect how much he or she has to pay in taxes. A bill currently being considered in California will change employment classifications of certain workers so they can start collecting fair pay and benefits packages, as well as potentially lower their tax liabilities.

Called Assembly Bill 5, if passed by the Senate, it would give new guidelines for determining who is and who is not technically an employee. It enforces the use of the ABC test. The ABC test looks at:

  • A: If an individual works independently
  • B: If an individual works outside of an employer's regular operations
  • C: If an individual's job is essentially and independently established trade

Harassment and discrimination behind recently filed lawsuit

A woman who has worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for decades has recently filed a lawsuit against the DWP and four of her co-workers. She claims she has long been subjected to discrimination, harassment and retaliation because of her religion. Per federal and California fair employment laws, this individual is well within her rights to seek relief and compensation for any losses resulting from such behavior -- as is anyone else who has been dealing with similar issues.

According to reports, a 41-year-old female alleges that for years her colleagues frequently made derogatory remarks about her following of the Muslim religion. She says she was retaliated against when she reported contract problems. She also claims that she was denied the ability to move up in the department.

Employment contracts and the issue of surveillance

Many employers in California make it a point to let their employees know they will be tracking them. They can do this in several ways, all of which are legal. The details of how they do this is often included in employment contracts in order to document that employees have been adequately warned. When an employer goes beyond agreed-upon surveillance methods or uses any information gained by tracking employees to discriminate in any way, employees or former employees may utilize legal means to hold the responsible party accountable for these actions and seek compensation for any resulting losses.

According to a recently published article, over half of all large companies in the United States use monitoring software to track their employees. They can look at emails, review keystrokes, look at social media accounts, access information retrieved through health and wellness programs, and track GPS on company phones -- among other things. Most people have accepted that their employers are keeping an eye on them, and most are okay with it.

Natural-hair discrimination banned in California

When looking through employee guidelines, it is common to find information about what kind of hairstyles are permitted in the workplace. Long have employees been told to change their natural hair to fit a specific mold. In California, natural hair discrimination is no longer allowed. 

In early July, the Governor signed a piece of legislation into law that is simply called the Crown Act. This has made the state the first in the country to make discrimination over natural hairstyles illegal. Other states are looking to follow suit. 

Factors that invalidate employment contracts

Contracts are the backbone of a successful business. A solid contract with partners, clients, vendors and others can provide a strong defense when disputes arise. California employment contracts offer protection for both the employer and the worker, clarifying the expectations and responsibilities of both parties. However, there are certain factors that can render a contract void or invalid.

An invalid contract defeats the purpose of having a contract in the first place. An employer who goes to the trouble of drafting an employee contract may have wasted valuable time and resources if he or she cannot enforce the terms of the contract because certain factors void the agreement. Unfortunately, it is not always clear that a contract is invalid until a dispute arises and the matter goes to court.

California special ed director settles wrongful termination claim

All students within a school district deserve to receive a quality education. Students with special needs often need accommodations in place to ensure that are able to work toward success. To ensure that districts are in compliance with state and federal laws regarding special education students, they will often hire personnel to help. Unfortunately, the former special education director of a California school district recently settled a wrongful termination claim, arguing that conflict developed between her and her superiors over compliance issues.

The lawsuit was filed in Sept. 2017. The defendant began working for the district in 2012. She claims that she initially received praise for her work, with the former superintendent describing her as "knowledgeable" and making positive changes in the district as late as 2015. However, a new superintendent was hired the following month who placed the plaintiff under the supervision of the assistant superintendent of instructional services; both of these men were named as defendants in the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that one of the defendants asked her to take action that would have been out of compliance with laws governing special education. 

Do interns have a right to employment compensation?

Whether working toward graduation or fresh out of college, experience is needed to get a good job to go along with a degree. In order to gain the necessary experience, students or new graduates pursue internship opportunities to grow their resumes. These internships can be great; however, some business owners in California may take advantage of the situation and end up with employees they do not have to pay. Employment compensation may be available to interns in such cases.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, interns are not considered employees; therefore, employers are not required to pay them. Most people know this. What some people may not know is that the internship has to benefit the intern more than it helps the employer for the intern to be refused payment for hours worked.

When an EEOC claim gets tossed aside

Those who work in the state of California want to be treated fairly while on the job. When that does not happen, they want to believe that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will have their backs. According to a recently published article, that does not seem to be the case. What can one do when his or her EEOC claim gets tossed aside?

When the EEOC receives a claim, it is supposed to investigate the matter. Its sole job is to protect the rights of employees and ensure that they work in discrimination-free environments. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, the department is severely short-staffed and has been unable to investigate all claims received. The EEOC says it is only taking more significant cases right now and is closing a lot of claims without performing investigations. 

Mattel facing wrongful termination and age discrimination claims

When fired from a job, it is normal and okay to question the reason behind it. If something about it seems off or not entirely legal, one might be able to take specific actions with the hopes of seeking compensation for any resulting losses. Recently, a California man did just that when he filed wrongful termination and age discrimination claims -- among others -- against Mattel.

According to reports, a 71-year-old male filed claims against his former employer after he, at the age of 70, was written up and fired. He had worked for Mattel since 1968 and, until his few months with the company, had never been in trouble or caused trouble while on the job. In March 2018, Mattel began a round of layoffs. Those let go from the company, the plaintiff claims, were all on the older side.

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